• THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK is a dramatized odyssey through the trials and tribulations of the New Left, highlighting the reasons for its emotional appeal while at the same time revealing its structural and philosophical weaknesses. Picking up where the underground hit Billy Jack left off, the movie details a struggle to save Freedom School, on an Indian reservation, from being closed down by its hostile, bigoted white neighbors and by government repression. The propaganda is crude but effective; it includes a massacre of Vietnamese women and children by American soldiers (shown in flashback), assorted bullying of Indians and other minorities by members of the White Power Structure, and a climactic battle at the school between well-equipped government troops and helpless, unarmed students. The movie takes on the appearance of a trendy replay of the burning issues of the 1960's, but without any real understanding of the means necessary for their resolution. The film's underlying metaphysics is a brand of Indian mysticism that even its hero, Billy Jack, is unable to practice. Or preach, either: considering that the Freedom School is supposedly teaching a superior life style, it's surprising that the students seem so remarkably eager to fight violence with violence. The movie attacks the tie-ins between government and big business; but the Freedom School cavalierly accepts government grants, thus attacking one rip-off while taking advantage of another. For all its preachments of the right to "do your own thing," The Trial of Billy Jack is thoroughly collectivistic at the core. The peace-love-brotherhood tribalism of the school/commune engages in pitched battles against the military-industrial-racist tribalism of the outside world, in terms of oppressive strong majority against oppressed helpless minority. The individual is little more than a cipher in this grand scheme of events and property rights (except for Indian tribal property) aren't even an issue. Tom Laughlin delivers his quota of karate chops to the establishment, while Delores Taylor provides the sainthood and martyrdom. The tragedy of this movie is that it is able to dramatize real issues, with a powerful emotional appeal, but seems unable to come to terms with its own contradictions, or point the way to any meaningful solutions. The Trial of Billy Jack has the ability to enrage, but not to enlighten. Rated "PG."—Charles F. Barr

• THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ is alternately appealing and appalling as it traces the dizzy career of a young, brash and amoral character clawing his way out of Montreal's Jewish ghetto during the late 1940's. Richard Dreyfuss, of American Graffiti fame, infuses the role of Duddy with a ferocious energy, portraying him as a likeable heel who turns out to be not so likeable at the end. Duddy confounds his friends, relatives and enemies alike with his obsessive wheeling and dealing. Duddy will do almost anything and use almost anyone to get ahead. He has his girl friend, Micheline Lanctot, front for him in a land deal; he cons his relatives into having films made of their sons' bar mitzvahs, directed by a blacklisted Communist; and he hires a simple-minded epileptic (played with surprising dignity by Randy Quaid) to drive a truck for him, with disastrous results. Duddy is far from being a hero, and at times he seems to be a pathological case study; as the movie progresses, he becomes more clever and adept at hustling without achieving any character development whatsoever. Paradoxically, Duddy is the black sheep of his family, while at the same time its strongest member. His father, played by a happy-go-lucky Jack Warden, is a taxi driver with no further ambition; his brother is a "sensitive" weakling; and his rich uncle uses his money to control other members of the family. The downbeat, somewhat cynical tone of the movie clashes with its violent energy and strident pacing. The result is an inconclusive draw. Rated "PG."—C. F. B.

• About half-way through CALIFORNIA SPLIT George Segal enters a Hollywood massage parlor and is escorted to a back room, past two children watching television, to an illicit poker game. Although the film misses the opportunity to comment philosophically on crimes without victims, it is nevertheless an extraordinarily fine film, possibly Robert Altman's best since McCabe and Mrs. Miller. As in the earlier film Altman punctuates his soundtrack with the muttered commentary of his principal actors and the layered conversation of background characters, but this time with greater success, largely because the jumble of noise is both more intelligible and better adopted to the vibrant and slightly dazed world of gamblers and prostitutes who serve Fruit Loops for breakfast. The film has a deceptively casual, off-handed style that is beautifully suited to Elliott Gould's nonchalance. Gould gives his best performance in many films as an impulsive gambler, constantly searching for action, who will bet on anything from a fight between spectators at a boxing match to naming the seven dwarfs. He is always ebullient, even when losing, while George Segal is deliberate, cautious, often peevish and agonized, brightening only in Gould's company. The film is less about gambling than about their curious affinity for each other, a subtle and complex relationship, as they move from poker and the track in California to the big time in Reno, an exhilarating finish at the crap table, disenchantment and separation. It is an exceptional film, funny, fast-paced, tightly constructed, expertly scripted and performed. Rated "R."—James F. Carey